13 Mar - 
UFC London's Volkan Oezdemir returning to Swiss roots to rebound from 'really annoying year'

LONDON – For Volkan Oezdemir, the frustration of 2018 didn’t lie solely in his losses – far from it, in fact.

“Definitely, 2017 was a better year for me,” Oezdemir flatly told MMA Junkie.

Sure, Oezdemir suffered losses to Daniel Cormier and Anthony Smith in 2018, but there were multiple battles with staph along the way, as well. Breaking his nose in both fights didn’t help, and then there was a knee surgery to deal with, well.

“It was a pain in the ass for me to train,” Oezdemir said. “It was a really annoying year.”

Oezdemir stormed the UFC scene in 2017, racking up big wins over Ovince Saint Preux, Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa to earn his way to a title shot with Cormier. While he ultimately came up short, Oezdemir insists he has no regrets rushing to the top of the division.

“For me, it’s all about risk and reward,” Oezdemir said. “Fighting Cormier not even one year after my UFC beginning was going to be like one of the biggest upsets in history. This is all it’s all about. It’s all about what you can give and the history you create.”

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Oezdemir encountered one more issue leading into his latest training camp, with visa troubles keeping him from heading to Florida and training at Henri Hooft’s Hard Knocks 365. “No Time” took it in stride, returning to his Swiss roots, and he believes it’s actually paid dividends.

“It’s good because I can feel the old Volkan going on,” Oezdemir said. “Aside from feeling this old energy and the thing that made me, also, I had to make some changes in my training because I don’t have all the bodies I have in Florida, all the high-level people, the heavyweights. I actually had to really focus a lot on my conditioning and techniques, so definitely I improved a lot.”

Oezdemir (15-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) now takes on an equally fast-rising contender in Dominick Reyes (10-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 5 at The O2 in London, which streams live in its entirety on ESPN+.

Oezdemir admits his fiancee predicted the matchup after watching Reyes beat Jared Cannonier this past May. Oezdemir was then an interested spectator when Reyes followed up with a UFC 229 win over Ovince Saint Preux in October.

“Since that moment, I kept on following him,” Oezdemir said. “Definitely the ‘OSP’ fight, now he’s going to be facing me, so now it’s going to be a different story.”

Oezdemir currently sits at No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA light heavyweight rankings, with Reyes residing at No. 9. But Oezdemir insists his UFC run has one significant difference from Reyes quick rise.

“There are always parallels, but he hasn’t faced the highest level of competition like I did,” Oezdemir said. “His ‘OSP’ fight, his last fight in the UFC, was my first fight in the UFC, so my first fight in the UFC, I fought the No. 6 in the world at the time, and it’s just been top-10 guys, so I think there is a difference in the experience there.

“His game is strong. He has his assets. He’s doing a great job at exploiting them, but of course everybody has their holes, and I see many of them.”

For Oezdemir, a return home to Switzerland may prove an opportunity for a new start, as well. He insists that once his visa issues are resolved, he’ll head back to Florida to train with Hooft, but in the meantime, with an incredibly frustrating year behind him, Oezdemir is prepared to show again what makes him so dangerous.

“I don’t feel I have something to lose or something to regain,” Oezdemir said. “I just have to apply my game, do my stuff and be myself in the cage.

“It’s going to be a pretty interesting matchup for the fans, and they’re going to see a big knockout from me.”

To hear more from Oezdemir, check out the video above.

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